Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I didn't have very high expectations for Mozambique. From what I'd read in the guidebook, it sounded expensive, Portuguese-speaking, and like its main tourist attractions were...beaches. And Andy and I aren't really beach people.

Or are we???

I shouldn't speak for Andy, but Mozambique just about turned me around. The ocean there isn't just's a sliver of turquoise paradise. (And it's filled with cool fish, too!) The beach isn't just's a sandy white yoga mat. Etc., etc.--you'll see in a moment for yourself.

As for the other objections, it turned out that Mozambique was one of the few countries we've visited where prices have actually gone down since our guidebook was published. Apparently the Mozambican metical has weakened against the US dollar since 2006, making it a heck of a lot cheaper than the preceding seven countries or so we'd been to. We'll take it!

And as for the Portuguese, I'll just say that a lot more people seem to speak English in Mozambique than they did in Brazil. Maybe it was all just Zimbabwean refugees we were talking to instead of actual Mozambicans...but we had no trouble whatsoever getting around, and everyone was incredibly friendly, no matter where they came from.

OK, on to pictoral evidence of good times had.

Maputo, Mozambique's capital, was our first stop. It's in the far south of the country and easy to get to in just a few hours by bus or car from South Africa or Swaziland. After several countries heavy on supermarkets but short on street food, we were overjoyed to be in a city with a real market and street food scene. Oh, and with cheap Internet. Pretty much all we did in Maputo was eat and blog, so we don't have too many touristy pictures to share.

Except for this one of a public telephone, which I was amused to learn is apparently called a "bla bla" in Portuguese.
Our next stop, around 9 hours up the coast, was a small beach town called Tofo (pronounced "Tofu"). A peek the local beach may help you understand why people flock here.
In Tofo, we stayed at a "yoga and surf retreat" called Turtle Cove for three days. (This was sort of my reward for all the friggin' hiking and sleeping in the car I did in South Africa!) They have two yoga classes a day in their on-site "yoga temple" or down on the beach, and you can bet I took advantage of them!

The visiting instructor happened to be an expert in "acro yoga," or partner yoga, in which you work together with a partner to achieve all sorts of crazy balancing poses. Not exactly my area, but I managed to accomplish some of the poses. Here I am practicing a sort of backbendy one on the beach--the half-naked man serving as my "base" is Olivier, my teacher.
In case you're curious, Andy did not participate in the yoga, but he did hide up in the sand dunes and secretly take pictures of me during my beach class (thanks!). He also napped a lot.

Oh, and he took some self-guided nature walks, during which he was entranced by these "cool hanging pine trees"...
...and some fun butterflies.

The other thing you can do in Tofo is snorkel with whale sharks. Andy did this in Mexico with his mom a few years ago and basically never shuts up about how cool it was, so I was happy to take a whole lot of anti-seasickness drugs and venture out to see for myself!

So we were given snorkels, flippers, and wet-shirts to help keep us warm and loaded into a boat, which then sped us out into the choppy, freezing Indian Ocean.

Whale sharks are the biggest sharks in the world, and indeed the biggest fish. The first one the crew spotted was a juvenile, only around 15 feet long, but he looked plenty big to me as I swam feverishly after him. I could barely keep up with his tail, but this German guy we were with got a great face shot with his underwater camera, which he kindly shared with us!
Another perspective on the shark. You can see its patterning nicely here.

Now, for some size comparison, here is our own Andy swimming with the second shark we found, which was around 3o feet long. Thanks again to the German dude for these awesome pictures!

The final fish we jumped in with was MASSIVE, far bigger than our boat. Maybe 50 feet long? I don't know, I'm just glad I didn't get as close to its mouth as our friend did. (Luckily, they eat plankton, not humans, and are totally not agressive.)

So, that got my adrenaline up after a few days of yoga! Very cool, I highly recommend swimming with whale sharks if you ever get a chance.

Land-based wildlife-viewing opportunities were a bit thin on the ground in Mozambique, but Andy did manage to find a lizard (of course!) somewhere...

...and we saw this cool ibis-like (?) bird on Magaruque Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, which we visited from Vilankulos--another beach town about six hours north of Tofo. (Many thanks to the Italians who gave us a lift there!)
Here's me trying to keep up my yoga practice on this whole new paradisical island beach. Tough life.

We also snorkeled around this island (the water was freezing, but the fish were nice) and had an amazing seafood lunch (pics in the food post). We are happy to recommend Dolphin Dhow, the company that arranged this "ocean safari" for us in Vilankulos. They also have nice, cheap, waterfront rooms!

The only thing that was slightly less than glorious about Mozambique was that, no matter where you are in the country (or at least in the south and the middle of it), the long-distance buses all depart around 4AM. So you're always up in the middle of the night, lugging your crap into town and jostling for your seat.

The other crazy thing about minibuses in Mozambique (called chapas) is that they don't put luggage on the roof (like in West Africa) or in a trailer (like in Southern Africa), but cram it all into the bus with the passengers. And no one's carrying fewer bags of corn or boxes of live chickens in Mozambique than in any of those other places. The buses were frequently so crowded that when we stopped for a bathroom or food break, Andy and I had to climb out the window because the aisles were way too jammed with stuff.

Here is a visual aid, taken from my seat in the last row of the bus. The white cartons in the front on the left are the live chicks, of course.
Compared to the buses, this defunct camper that we slept in on the grounds of a hostel in Chimoio was the most spacious room ever!
Look, it even had a breakfast nook! We prepared a romantic dinner of pasta with vegetables and peach nectar to eat in our camper. That should probably be in the food post, but oh well.
We only stayed in Chimoio one night (well, half a night, since we had to be up again at 3AM for another bus), then it was on to Tete and across the border into Malawi in one more long, long day of busing. The mountainous landscape of this inland, central part of Mozambique was very pretty, but apparently cramped bus seats and smudged windows don't make for much motivation to take pictures.

If you look at Mozambique on a map, you'll see that there's a whole lot of it we didn't get to see. That just means that we'll have to go back one day. Maybe with our own car! But even by bus, it's totally a country worth eating in, snorkeling in, and just chilling out in. Mozambique, I will miss you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Antelope steaks and bunny chows: Foods of Southern Africa

Hey, whose bright idea was it to write about the foods of all six southern African countries we've visited in one huge post?

Oh, yeah, mine.

The thing is, food is pretty similar across this zone--which includes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland--and, sad to say, not the most exciting we've had in Africa.

In many ways, eating in these countries was like being back in America...there are lots of supermarkets, and restaurants are kind of expensive, so we made a lot of sandwiches and cooked a lot of our own cheap pasta or rice meals. (We won't bore you with pics of those.) The "African" food--when you can even find it--tends to be some kind of stew with pap, or a stiff paste made of "mealie meal" (cornmeal).

But there were a few gems, and a few regional variations. So here we go with foods of southern Africa!

Upon landing at Jo'burg airport, we went straight to a supermarket to stock up. We don't eat a lot of potato chips at home, but when we find strange new flavors overseas, we can't resist trying them. These were both very tasty.

I was also happy to discover many new yogurt flavors I'd never heard of before. Stewed fruit and custard quickly became my favorite.
There is basically no street food in southern Africa, which means no fried balls, so we had to start eating things like candy bars. Have to unhealthy it up somehow...

OK, here's the first really strange South African food we encountered--Mageu. It's a fermented, not very sweet corn drink. Andy thought it was tolerable and I found it disgusting. Much nicer was this giant macaroon we got at the Jo'burg bus station's bakery.

On to Zimbabwe! Zimbabwe is really into pies, but not American-style apple pies...British-style savory ones. This one is Cornish, I think, which contains not hen but beef. And a disappointing cinnamon roll--in southern Africa called a Chelsea bun--for Andy.

Cream soda is very popular in southern Africa. Also, it is green, for some reason! Bright green, like the hulk. Tastes the same as the brown kind in America, though. (The setting, btw, is the Baobab Hotel in Zimbabwe, which we visited with our Belgian camper-driving friends.)

Has the world ended? Yes, I am drinking Coke. It was "free" on our very expensive Matobo safari, and I was really thirsty.
Probably the best meal we had in Zimbabwe was at a restaurant called Blu Zooloo in Vic Falls. They actually had very decent ribs (!), fish and chips, a pork chop with apple sauce for Andy...

...and pecan pie! Ben had never had pecan pie before, so we had to try it. A weird shape, but it tasted pretty authentic. A very traditional Zimbabwean meal, as you can see.

Another weird thing all across these countries--bologna is called "polony." We bought packs in several places when we were sick of peanut butter and jelly for lunch.

Botswana, despite being one of the most expensive and tourist-oriented countries we've visited, probably had the most authentic and cheap African food of all the southern African countries. Even in Kasane, where we paid $50 for dorm beds, we were able to find pap with beef curry stew at a local dive for about $3 a plate.

Oops, back to Zimbabwe for a moment, where I got a cheap sachet of drinkable yogurt. The store didn't have change for me so they gave me a little candy instead of my 10 cents.

Botswana again, after a grocery run. Left to right: nasty grape-flavoring Andy bought for his water and is still carrying around a month later; disappointing ice cream tub; OK lemon sandwich cookies.

Savannah Dry Cider is advertised up and down Africa (OK, maybe just in Ghana and South Africa, but that is both up and down). I had wanted to try one for a while, but when I finally got a free one on the Chobe River Cruise, I was a little disappointed. I much prefer Hunter's Dry Cider, which I tried later on. Both are made in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Another cheap and authentic Botswanan meal out, in Nata--beef stew, salad, and "samp," which is a corn and bean mixture that's pretty good. About $3 for this plate as well.

When cooking out in the delta, me, Andy, and Ben relived our halcyon Chilean traveling days (we were all in South America last year, by coincidence, at the same time) by making completos Italianos with our hot dogs, topping them with chopped tomato, avocado, and mayo.

OK, everyone has that one thing that they love to eat that everyone else thinks is gross, and for me that thing is tongue. My parents always got it along with the turkey and pastrami when we had a deli spread when I was a kid, and I have been hooked ever since. But it's a very New York, kosher-deli thing, so imagine my surprise when I found a package in the fridge case in a Spar Supermarket in Botswana! Botswana does produce a LOT of beef, so I guess it's not so weird, but still. Anyway, I snapped it up and quickly turned it into an overstuffed sandwich, Bens-style. Yummmmm.

Ben and I enjoyed a free beer together on the boat back from the delta. Cheers!

I got this drinkable yogurt on the way out of Botswana. I think it was peach. Tasty.

On to Namibia! Here is the best thing we ate in the whole country--an apple slice from the Shoprite Supermarket in Tsumeb. We visited many other Shoprites in many other cities (and countries!), but none of them ever duplicated the perfection of this apple-stuffed pastry covered with icing.

As Andy has mentioned, we rented a tent and some pots and camped for 10 days around Namibia. Here we are at the gorgeous campsite near Uis on our first night out, the sun setting in the background and Andy making the magic happen over the firepit. It was pasta with onions and tomato soup mix sauce that night.

I did my magic over the fire a few days later. And by did my magic, I mean set several marshmallows on fire trying to make s'mores. Poor Ben had also never had s'mores before, but we successfully addicted him by the end of our camping adventure.

We only ate out twice in Namibia, and both meals were American-priced...but considering that, pretty excellent. In Swakopmund, we each had game. Here is Andy's kudu steak with chips (fries) and veggies...

...and my springbok special with baked potato. Both were very flavorful and different from each other.

Farm Fresh is Namibia's brand of dairy products. Their yogurt is OK. I got this big tub of fruit salad flavor in Swakopmund, but I preferred the guava and apricot ones I got later.

Polony doesn't just come in packages--you can buy a whole weiner-shaped roll like this one and eat it on the beach, like we did!

Solitaire, Namibia, is famous for having a gas station and an amazing bakery. A very large man doles out huge slices of his apple pie there--they cost almost $3 (hey, that's 60 fried bananas in Madagascar!) but they are really very, very good.

Here is something you can find in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa--puffed corn snacks (kind of like cheese doodles without the cheese) rolled in spicy tomato powder. Yummy and extremely cheap.

Luderitz is a very German-feeling town on the sea in Namibia. While Andy explored, Ben and I visited a cafe to do some writing. This delicious German hot chocolate helped me work on a page or two of my novel.

Back to South Africa! At the train station in Cape Town were people selling GIANT samosas. Hooray! This was a great appetizer before we caught the train out to Adrian and Anne's for the Indian feast they cooked us (sadly, we forgot to take pictures).

In South Africa, the national food must be biltong. Biltong is dried raw meat, like American jerky. We'd heard a lot about it but didn't try any until we found ourselves parked outside of "The Biltong Factory" in Heidelberg, on our way to drive the Garden Route. The guy working inside initiated us into the delicious ways of biltong and drywors (dried sausages) with copious samples and explanations. We walked out with about $15 of delicious beef biltong and kudu sausage sticks.

Here you can see the biltong pieces drying along the wall.

Not a stogie, just a kudu stick.

South Africa's McDonalds-like fast food chain is called Wimpy. Insert 14 jokes here.

Hooray for yogurt the size of my head!

Here's the beef biltong. Sooo tasty.

In South Africa, I was happy to occasionally find peanut M&Ms pretty cheap. They are my favorite "end of trail" reward food for hiking (plus they give me energy for the return hike!). Here I am at the waterfall on the Otter Trail at Tsitsikama National Park with my fix.

More crazy chip flavors! Walkie Talkie Chicken is apparently flavored like a stew made of chicken heads and feet, and a Gatsby is a sandwich popular in Cape Town...not really sure what's in it, but we were told it is gross. Anyway, I prefered the Gatsby flavored chips to the chicken...

Andy looks way too sleepy to enjoy these orange-flavored sandwich cookies we picked up on super sale. I think they are from Oman or the UAE. Anyway, better than I thought, they tasted like creamsicles.

Apparently, we didn't eat in Lesotho. Well, we didn't eat anything interesting. We had sandwiches one night and cooked pasta the next and then we were gone. We had hoped to do dinner with a local family when we were at Malealea Lodge, but forgot to book it until it was too late. Ah well, next time.

Back in South Africa, here I am at the Giant's Castle section of Drakensberg National Park. Another hike done, another bag of reward M&Ms.

This Ceres guava juice was the best juice I had in South Africa. I tried the knockoff Spar brand, too, and it was not as good. You heard it here first.

We arrived in Durban with three goals: buy a tent, use the Internet, and try bunny chow. We only accomplished one of these goals, and you can see it here. Bunny chow is 1/3 loaf of white bread hollowed out and filled with curry. I don't know the story behind it, you can do some Googling and tell me, but it is a Durban staple and was very delicious. I had it twice in one day, then never again because we were off to Swaziland.

I think these were from South Africa, too. I just thought it was fun that they made Fritos in a chutney flavor. They weren't bad.

Swaziland! Cream donuts that look like hot dogs! You see these in most of the surrounding countries, but they were cheapest here.

Look what else I found cheap in Swaziland! Yaaaaay!

On Andy's birthday morning, we darted into the Spar whose parking lot we had just slept in and bought a celebratory breakfast of nasty fake-tasting fruit nectar and more cream hot-dog donuts.
That color is not natural! But Andy liked it.

For his birthday lunch, Andy elected to try this scary curry "loaf" that appeared to be made of meat bits and gelatin. Not so great. I went for more tongue, surprise, surprise.
Andy's birthday apple slice. This one had pineapple in it and was not as good as the one from Namibia.

Our dinner at the fancy game park we stayed in in Swaziland was impala stew (yummy) with rice and veg.

And breakfast was the full English. Yum! Wonder what kind of antelope was in the sausage...

Back to S. Africa one last time. Snacks in Kruger Park included sachets of ice cream, Fan Ice style. Pretty good.

And kudu sausage at a picnic stop. Very nice. Thanks, kudu, for being both beautiful and tasty.

On our way out of Kruger we got a box of french fries with "garlic sauce" on top. Which I think was a cornmeal paste with a lot of fresh garlic in it. Not bad at all.
Whew, finished that post with two minutes of Internet time to spare. I have no deep thoughts about all this food, except that I am happy to now be in Mozambique where there is cheap, greasy street food again!